The Caterer Magazine January 2016
At the end of last year, chef Mark Jordan and hotelier Patrick Burke played host to the first Eat Jersey food festival, which showcased the island’s fine produce. Amanda Afiya took in some of the delights.
At the end of last year, chef Mark Jordan and hotelier Patrick Burke played host to the first Eat Jersey food festival, which showcased the island’s fine produce. Amanda Afiya took in some of the delights This Saturday, the Atlantic hotel’s executive head chef, Mark Jordan, will be guest cheffing at the renowned Obsession food festival at Northcote in Langho, Lancashire. Along with the likes of Tom Sellers from Restaurant Story in London, three-Michelin-starred chef Annie Féolde of Restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy, and two-starred chef Jean-Luc Rocha of Château Cordeillan- Bages in Pauillac, France, Jordan will be strutting his gastronomic stuff as part of the 16-day event, created by The Caterer’s recent cover boys, Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft, and now fêted the world over. On top of its obvious marketing success for Northcote, the 16-year-old Obsession event has also proved to be something of an inspiration to chefs and hoteliers further afield, and can be credited for galvanizing a similar event at Jersey’s beautifully situated, four-AA-red-star Atlantic hotel in St Brelade. Eat Jersey, which took place in November, ran across three days and saw chefs from the across the British Isles and France joining the family-owned hotel to celebrate the island’s luxury ingredients. Over the course of the weekend, guests were invited to attend one of two gastronomic evenings at the Michelin-starred, four-AArosette Ocean restaurant – it was matched with fine wines by head sommelier Richard Burton and Champagne from the house of Taittinger – with the festival concluding with an all-day dining event at bistro Mark Jordan at the Beach, run by Jordan’s wife Magda, where Jordan and head chef Tamas Varsanyi created an exclusive menu. Speaking of the inspiration behind the event, the Atlantic’s owner, Patrick Burke, whose father opened the hotel in 1970, says: “We are passionate about promoting the wonderful produce available from both coast and country on our beautiful island. Eat Jersey has been a number of years in the making, and we were delighted to welcome so many highly respected chefs to Jersey.” The festival has also proved to be another plank in the “layer upon layer” of marketing effort within the business, says Burke. “It is absolutely driven by the idea of putting Jersey on the map, and through that, hopefully, our brands – the Atlantic hotel, Ocean restaurant and Mark Jordan at the Beach – and Mark and I see it as becoming integral to everything that we do and becoming another brand, another level of interest around what we’re doing which we’ll be talking about on a year-round basis. So Eat Jersey is really about marketing.” The hotel also had the advantage of having both its flagship Ocean restaurant and its bistro on the beach to showcase, but Burke imagines there will be the opportunity in future years to involve other venues on the island, such as one night at the Atlantic and one night at Lawrence Huggler’s Bohemia, for example. Bohemia chef Steve Smith, meanwhile, was more than happy to cook at the Atlantic on the first night, and Huggler dined front of house as a guest. “What we’ve discovered, which is not a great surprise, is that it is hugely expensive to put on something like this. There’s a lot of hard cost associated with public relations, with advertising, with getting people to Jersey, and so on. So we are seeking to recover as much as we can through sponsorship. What we would say to someone in year two or three, is ‘come and be a part of what we’re doing, but please give us a contribution towards our marketing costs’.” Measuring the success of such an initiative can take as much as three years, he explains. “I don’t think you can do it in one year. If, after three years, we could do this and not lose any money, that would be a win because the win comes in the recognition, in the PR – it doesn’t come financially.” From Jordan’s perspective, his focus is broadly on the atmosphere in the dining room and the execution of the dishes. He thinks the debut event went swimmingly well. “There were no hiccups to the format and a great line-up of chefs, although we were very sorry that Éric Chavot was unable to be with us in the end [ for personal reasons]. It was a great period over the three days with lots of different styles of food,” he says. For the line-up, Jordan brought together local chefs that he had worked with before, and chefs that he knew well throughout the industry. “It was quite easy to sign the chefs up – in fact we’ve already got Nathan Outlaw and Kenny Atkinson for 2016. I don’t have much room for egotistical chefs, and the guys I do know are really solid, really approachable, and nice guys in general. I couldn’t have worked with mavericks.” Who you choose to come into your kitchen is, of course, of great importance to your brigade. Guest cheffing can bring a huge opportunity to exchange knowledge and educate more junior members of the team, and it’s important that the invited chefs respect the culture of the kitchen they are entering.For Jordan’s brigade, used to their boss’s laid-back style and way of working, it was an insightful exercise. “Keith Floyd taught me about food and flavour and not to ponce around with ingredients. Adam Smith and Michael Wignall are what I would describe as completely focused chefs, which was an eyeopener for my team, but it’s important to take them out of their comfort zone a little. I try and mix it up with different chefs – some new, some old favourites – and see how it develops. As a result, I’m now doing a pop-up with Pascal Proyart at One-O-One at the Park Tower Knightsbridge at the end of January. There’s the potential for lots of spin-offs.” Jordan reckons it took him “a good six months” to prepare for the event, saying the mise-en-place, planning and logistics were critical. “The recipes vary from chef to chef depending on those that have written a cookbook and those that haven’t. You have to interpret things – it’s quite typical of chefs not to mention a squeeze of lemon, for example, when they’re writing a recipe for you. Pascal’s recipe was three pages with lots of components – I did think ‘oh my god’ when I saw it!” In addition to Atkinson and Outlaw, Jordan says that he has Marco Grill executive chef Roger Pizey lined-up for Eat Jersey.